Orna and Jasmine’s interview
“Nowadays, regrettably, our society seems to be pelting along at a ferocious pace, so much so that most of us find it challenging to stop and smell the roses. I wish we all didn’t feel such pressure to do so much, to have so much and to be so much. Personally I have benefited from the slow pace of life that has been instilled upon us over the past 18 months. It has given me time to delve deeper into my Ayurvedic practices and also to reflect upon what is really important to me in my life going forward. I think a lot of society got the opportunity to slow down, reflect and check in with themselves over this time.”
When Orna is not working, you will find her cooking yummy food, swimming in the sea or out walking in nature with friends and family. She loves travelling, having caught the bug from her mother, and is lucky enough to have already travelled to many corners of the globe. She also loves a good music festival!
Orna got her BA (Hons) in Ayurvedic Studies 20 years ago. After that, she undertook a 3-year diploma in Ayurvedic Medicine – Ayurvedic clinic in Purley. Since then, she has spent years studying and working in the UK, India and Sri Lanka and has been lucky enough to intern with some wonderfully esteemed teachers such as Dr Vasant Lad. She worked at Ayurvedic company Pukka Herbs in the UK before moving back to Ireland in 2009 and setting up her company, Ayurveda Galway. She is also a qualified yoga teacher and a member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association.
“I feel that Ayurveda’s approach to living in harmony with nature and those around us is more important today than ever before.”
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
Ayurveda permeates all aspects of our existence: our environment, the seasons, the time of day, the time of life, our foods, our habits and tendencies, as well as our thoughts, actions and reactions.
When did you discover it?
I first came across it while chatting to a fellow traveller at a well-known detox centre on Kho Samui Island, Thailand, back in 1998. He had just been to India and revealed some of the magic of Ayurveda to me. I’d always been interested in alternative medicine, but Ayurveda fully resonated with my core and I loved that it included every aspect of one’s life. I was heading home to Ireland for Christmas and vowed that I’d go on an adventure to India early the following year. That didn’t happen, but I did end up in London enrolled on the first Ayurvedic Studies degree course outside of India.
How long have you been practising it?
It always surprises me how fast time is passing but it is actually 20 years since I completed my degree. After that, the next course was a diploma in Ayurvedic Medicine, followed by various other courses and internships in both India and the EU with wonderful teachers such as Dr. Vasant Lad and Dr. Sucheta Godbole. I worked for Pukka Herbs in the UK for a few years before moving back to Ireland and setting up my practice circa 2008. I am based in Galway, West of Ireland, where I have my clinic. As well as seeing clients on a one-to-one basis for consultations and treatments, I also run 6-week introductory courses and cooking workshops and teach yoga.
Has it helped you with anything major?
Yes, it has taught me how to listen to my body. Throughout my earlier adult years I had what I couldn’t consider a full-blown eating disorder but a very unhealthy attachment to food, a slight obsession I guess. At the age of 30, I did my first Panchakarma in India. On my return to the UK, I could feel that a cloud that had been following me around for years had lifted and since then I can happily say that I have a very healthy relationship with food. I can now eat when I’m hungry, not just because I am anxious or restless. It also helped me correct a very irregular menstrual cycle. At the time I was creating too much heat in my body via food, too much beetroot/carrot/ginger juice and a lot of running. All this heat was drying up my tissues, and once I made a few changes all was back on track.
Is Ayurveda part of your everyday life or just for your medicine cabinet or fall-back routine?
It’s ingrained in my everyday life at this stage but being of a primarily Vata constitution, I can easily fall of the wagon every now and then. There are periods when I have an amazing ability to step over my yoga mat in the morning and not even see it! My medicine cabinet is full of Ayurvedic herbs. I like to make up my own formulations and capsules so I’m always experimenting!
What are your top 3 Ayurvedic tips that have worked for you?
Drinking warm water throughout the day, but avoiding too many fluids 30 minutes either side of a meal as this will dilute one’s digestive enzymes.
Eating warm food and not eating when I am not hungry, very upset or on a flight.
Listening to my body. If I’m feeling lethargic I try to get up and move but if I’m genuinely tired I find it best to rest.
What surprised you most about Ayurveda?
It could be very complicated, but in fact once you become familiar with the principles and get to know your own constitution, it’s actually a very simple way to maintain health and happiness. I am also continuously surprised about how every health concern/issue that I hear about or come cross in my practice can be understood and explained as an imbalance in the Doshas.
Did you integrate it gradually or overnight for any particular reason?
Oh gradually, I find gradually works best for me. If I go the whole hog and try to implement too many changes all at once there is a good chance that they wouldn’t stick and then I could end up abandoning the whole plan. Gradual integration of dietary and lifestyle habits is less stressful for the body in any case. That is according to me but also my Ayurvedic teachers.
Do your children/family eat an Ayurvedic diet? And if they do, do they know its Ayurveda or do they just think of it as home cooking?
Yes, they love to eat it when they come to visit me! My mum makes a good dal but the men in my family, if given a choice, would veer towards meat and two veg! It used to break my heart but I have resigned myself to the fact.
What is your favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
For me it has to be ghee. I love to make it and cook with it, but also to rub it along the rim of my lower eyelids when my eyes feel tired or I have been in front of a screen for too long. I also rub it into my skin when it is feeling dehydrated, especially around my eyes to help prevent wrinkles.
How does Ayurveda fit into your day-to-day routines?
I like to get up early and have time for my self-care routine. I like to mix it up a bit between meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and Abhyanga. I find if I leave it all until later in the day it is a bit more of a challenge to do, as we never know what the day ahead is going to bring.
What do you wish was easier in our society to make an Ayurvedic lifestyle more accessible?
An Ayurvedic lifestyle is living in harmony with nature and your surroundings in a way that is going to benefit and maintain your health and happiness.
Nowadays, regrettably, our society seems to be pelting along at a ferocious pace, so much so that most of us find it challenging to stop and smell the roses. I wish we all didn’t feel such pressure to do so much, to have so much and to be so much. Personally I have benefited from the slow pace of life that has been instilled upon us over the past 18 months. It has given me time to delve deeper into my Ayurvedic practices and also to reflect upon what is really important to me in my life going forward. I think a lot of society got the opportunity to slow down, reflect and check in with themselves over this time.
Do people around you/in your circle of friends know about Ayurveda?
Yes, I am lucky to be surrounded by a wonderful bunch of like-minded souls who are very open to Ayurveda, although I do have to do a bit of explaining every now and then.
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
Oh, it is hard to think of one thing but other than enough sleep, wholesome home-cooked food and fresh air, I would recommend not eating a big meal in the evening if at all possible. And to stop and breathe deeply and slowly for one or two minutes a few times throughout the day!
Anything to add?
I am grateful to be part of such a wonderful Ayurvedic community who are sharing the wonderful wisdom of Ayurveda. I feel that Ayurveda’s approach to living in harmony with nature and those around us is more important today than ever before.